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A Smoker’s Guide To New York
13 October 2014
Bear Trippers
Hi all. It has been around 18 months since my last contribution on Dick’s blog so a reintroduction is in order. I am a business travelling bear who writes occasional posts drawing on my experiences to offer useful travelling information for smokers. You can read my other posts under the Bear Tripper tag.
I’ve just returned from a trip with a colleague to New York and thought you’d like to hear how even with Mayor Bloomberg’s anti-smoking regime smokers are catered for quite adequately.
Hotels: Avoid the non-smoking hotels. Marriott banned it a few years ago for example. Do a little research when choosing your hotel and make sure you request a smoking room in the additional requests box, or if asked about room type when booking. Above all, ask when checking in. Nobody asks as they don’t expect to find smoking rooms. This worked at the Crowne Plaza in Times Square. Not only did they have a smoking room, but it was available immediately (before usual check in time). Hotel Pennsylvania (opposite Penn Station) has them too. It is a basic hotel, but well situated and has the bonus of a number of smoking rooms.
Parks: Smoking is not allowed within parks but the signs are so very small you could miss them. The other issue is that there are no clear boundaries as to what is classed as the park area which is confusing in both Central Park and Battery Park. Liberty Island doesn’t appear to have specific smoking areas but Ellis Island has a smokers post to left of main museum entrance which we took to mean you could smoke.
Streets: Open season for smokers. There are smokers posts here and there. There was some talk of smoking being banned at Times Square but there are smokers posts outside hotels in that area and I spotted a police car parked up in main area with driver’s hand sticking out smoking a cigarette! The streets are littered with butts which looks terrible. There are smokers posts and bins which can be used. We used portable ashtrays and emptied them in bins. No point helping the anti-smoking agenda by littering!
Venues: The world famous Studio 54 were OK with you leaving to have a smoke outside at the interval. They just asked that you kept your ticket with you for re-admittance. Madison Square Garden does not allow this. You are in for the whole show. However, it was amusing that a couple sat near us flouted the ban and smoked at their seats. Nobody said anything and the people behind them asked them to blow the smoke in their direction. Still, it could have gone horribly wrong so just check the venue website for interval pass outs or commit for the evening. Contrary to popular belief, us smokers can go without a cig for a few hours…..proven by the fact you have spent 8 hours on a plane to get there in the first place!
Bars: The grandfathering law is quite unusual, but marvellous. There are bars where you can smoke. In addition, you will find outdoor areas which allow smoking. Just ask first! Downtown is more relaxed and that is where we found the smoking bars. Karma on W 4th street (Avenue 1) was a bit ‘spit and sawdust’ but boasted happy hour each day from 1pm till 9pm and the staff were friendly. Also, sitting at the bar meant fun conversation with smoking locals. Circa Tabacon Watts Street (end of Broome Street) was an absolute find. It was a little more expensive but a lovely place. If staying uptown, it was also handy for Spring Street subway and was a lot more comfortable during the week. The Friday night was a lot busier, but some may enjoy that more. Both bars had good music, but not loud enough to stifle conversation, so ideal.
I am off to Seoul next week for a long trip so will have some more insights to share on my return. I will try not to be a stranger here again.
In the meantime, if you have any good (or bad) experiences of New York – or any other travel information for anywhere on smoking or e-cig vaping for that matter – please share as I’d be very interested to read them.


14 cig havens still smoking 10 years after Bloomberg’s ban
July 14, 2013
By GARY BUISO
Here’s smoke in your eye, Nanny Bloomberg!
The city’s smoking ban may be more than a decade old, but at the 14 bars and clubs where lighting up is still legal, patrons happily puff like it’s 1999 — and fume about the ban-happy mayor.
“It’s our right!” declared Vietnam vet Richard Velez, 63, at the Bay Ridge American Legion hall in Brooklyn. “Who the hell is this one individual to come in and micromanage my life?”
Velez said he’d give Mayor Bloomberg a tall salute if he dared step foot in his club.
“I’d blow smoke in his face,” he huffed. “I can’t stand the jerk.”
Vets said they had an inalienable right to puff away.
“I’m 74 years of age, and I want to have a cigarette when I have my beer,” Bill Keegan said.
Since the ban was enacted in 2003, the number of smoker havens has remained “fairly consistent,” says the city Health Department, which exempted just seven establishments in its first year.
Bars that allow smokers need to have been in existence by Dec. 31, 2001, and at least 10 percent of their revenue must derive from tobacco or tobacco-related products. Veteran and fraternal groups are also exempt, provided they submit the paperwork.
Former smoker Gene Burch made sure members and their guests had the right to smoke inside American Legion Post 1424 in Forest Hills, Queens, which won its exemption in 2005.
“Some of us fought in wars. Why shouldn’t we have the right to smoke?” the Vietnam vet said.
In Sunset Park, Brooklyn, the feeling was mutual.
“The mayor should start cleaning up the homeless again and stop worrying about people’s private lives!” said Joan Nelson, social director of Sporting Club Gjøa, a Norwegian soccer club founded in 1911.
“It’s an inconvenience to have to go outside,” she said. “It’s also an insult to leave the room. I’m paying. I enjoy being able to sit here, have a cigarette and have a drink, too.”
About half of the members smoke in the club, which has an ionizer and two air-filtration devices.
“We are about to install a new one because, lately, it has been brought up that we’ve had an increase in smokers,” Nelson said.
Some smokers are finding ways into the fraternal organizations, which require sponsorships or other conditions for entry.
“As a smoker, I miss lighting up at the end of my meal,” said Mario Alonso, a construction worker who has been ducking into the Maltese Club in Astoria after work for the past year.
“Smokers are apt to find a location they can light up and do everything everyone else does.”


U.S. experts debate penalties for smokers, the obese
Jan. 26, 2013
Mike Stobbe, The Associated Press
NEW YORK — Faced with the high cost of caring for smokers and overeaters, experts say society must grapple with a blunt question: Instead of trying to penalize them and change their ways, why not just let these health sinners die?
Annual health care costs are roughly $96 billion for smokers and $147 billion for the obese, the government says. These costs accompany sometimes heroic attempts to prolong lives, including surgery, chemotherapy and other measures.
But despite these rescue attempts, smokers tend to die 10 years earlier on average, and the obese die five to 12 years prematurely, according to various researchers’ estimates.
And attempts to curb smoking and unhealthy eating frequently lead to backlash: Witness the current legal tussle over New York City’s first-of-its-kind limits on the size of sugary beverages and the vicious fight last year in California over a ballot proposal to add a $1-per-pack cigarette tax, which was ultimately defeated.
“This is my life. I should be able to do what I want,” said Sebastian Lopez, a college student from Queens, speaking last September when the New York City Board of Health approved the soda size rules.
Critics also contend that tobacco- and calorie-control measures place a disproportionately heavy burden on poor people. That’s because they:
Smoke more than the rich, and have higher obesity rates.
Have less money so sales taxes hit them harder. One study last year found poor, nicotine-dependent smokers in New York – a state with very high cigarette taxes – spent as much as a quarter of their entire income on smokes.
Are less likely to have a car to shop elsewhere if the corner bodega or convenience store stops stocking their vices.
Critics call these approaches unfair, and believe they have only a marginal effect. “Ultimately these things are weak tea,” said Dr. Scott Gottlieb, a physician and fellow at the right-of-center think tank, the American Enterprise Institute.
Gottlieb’s view is debatable. There are plenty of public health researchers that can show smoking control measures have brought down smoking rates and who will argue that smoking taxes are not regressive so long as money is earmarked for programs that help poor people quit smoking.
And debate they will. There always seems to be a fight whenever this kind of public health legislation comes up. And it’s a fight that can go in all sorts of directions. For example, some studies even suggest that because smokers and obese people die sooner, they may actually cost society less than healthy people who live much longer and develop chronic conditions like Alzheimer’s disease.
So let’s return to the original question: Why provoke a backlash? If 1 in 5 U.S. adults smoke, and 1 in 3 are obese, why not just get off their backs and let them go on with their (probably shortened) lives?
Because it’s not just about them, say some health economists, bioethicists and public health researchers.
“Your freedom is likely to be someone else’s harm,” said Daniel Callahan, senior research scholar at a bioethics think-tank, the Hastings Center.
Smoking has the most obvious impact. Studies have increasingly shown harm to nonsmokers who are unlucky enough to work or live around heavy smokers. And several studies have shown heart attacks and asthma attack rates fell in counties or cities that adopted big smoking bans.
“When you ban smoking in public places, you’re protecting everyone’s health, including and especially the nonsmoker,” said S. Jay Olshansky, a professor at the University of Illinois-Chicago’s School of Public Health.
It can be harder to make the same argument about soda-size restrictions or other legislative attempts to discourage excessive calorie consumption, Olshansky added.
“When you eat yourself to death, you’re pretty much just harming yourself,” he said.
But that viewpoint doesn’t factor in the burden to everyone else of paying for the diabetes care, heart surgeries and other medical expenses incurred by obese people, noted John Cawley, a health economist at Cornell University.
“If I’m obese, the health care costs are not totally borne by me. They’re borne by other people in my health insurance plan and – when I’m older – by Medicare,” Cawley said.
From an economist’s perspective, there would be less reason to grouse about unhealthy behaviors by smokers, obese people, motorcycle riders who eschew helmets and other health sinners if they agreed to pay the financial price for their choices.
That’s the rationale for a provision in the Affordable Care Act – “Obamacare” to its detractors – that starting next year allows health insurers to charge smokers buying individual policies up to 50 percent higher premiums. A 60-year-old could wind up paying nearly $5,100 on top of premiums.
The new law doesn’t allow insurers to charge more for people who are overweight, however.
It’s tricky to play the insurance game with overweight people, because science is still sorting things out. While obesity is clearly linked with serious health problems and early death, the evidence is not as clear about people who are just overweight.
That said, public health officials shouldn’t shy away from tough anti-obesity efforts, said Callahan, the bioethicist. Callahan caused a public stir this week with a paper that called for a more aggressive public health campaign that tries to shame and stigmatize overeaters the way past public health campaigns have shamed and stigmatized smokers.
National obesity rates are essentially static, and public health campaigns that gently try to educate people about the benefits of exercise and healthy eating just aren’t working, Callahan argued. We need to get obese people to change their behavior. If they are angry or hurt by it, so be it, he said.
“Emotions are what really count in this world,” he said.


Smokers decry surge in smoking bans
April 10, 2011
By DELTHIA RICKS?
Smokers on Long Island have fewer places than ever to light up.
Smoking bans, once restricted to the most crowded indoor venues and workplaces, are quickly multiplying. Driven by an expanding body of research on the dangers of secondhand smoke, recent bans have extended to some beaches, stadiums, parks and sidewalks.
Now, a proposal would fine a smoker $1,000 in Nassau County for lighting up with kids up to age 14 in the car.
The increasing restrictions have ignited a debate in which critics say government has gone too far and advocates say it hasn’t gone far enough. One thing is clear: Smokers here, as elsewhere, are having a harder time than ever finding a spot to freely smoke.
“I’m not a heavy smoker, but it’s getting to where you can’t take a break and just have a smoke any more,” said Huntington Station cabbie Norman Smith.
Countered Lisbeth Shipley, executive director of the Manhasset Coalition Against Substance Abuse: “You can do whatever you want when your personal right doesn’t impose on my personal right and alter the chemicals in my brain.”
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Smoking bans widespread
The pace of the bans, though, isn’t slowing. New York City recently banned smoking in Central Park, Times Square and other parks and beaches. The city’s two major league ballparks, Yankee Stadium and Citi Field, are smoke-free zones. Los Angeles is considering a ban on smoking in outdoor dining areas.
On Long Island, the Hempstead Town Board has prohibited smoking in parks and on beaches, except in designated areas. Great Neck has banned puffing on village sidewalks near businesses. Brookhavenbanned smoking in town parks and recreation areas, while Huntington’s ban halts smoking in town playgrounds and Southampton’s at the beach.
As for cars, Rockland County bans smoking when children are riding along, as do the states of Arkansas,California, Louisiana, Maine and Oregon. A New York bill is pending.
Audrey Silk, founder of Brooklyn-based Citizens Lobbying Against Smoker Harassment, called Nassau’s effort “unnecessary government intrusion.”
“It’s government taking over parental autonomy based on a fraud that smoke inside a vehicle is harming anybody,” Silk said.
Another new front for public health officials: regulating smoking in private homes. In Belmont, Calif., smoking was banned two years ago in apartment and condominium buildings — the first such prohibition in the country.
How far can smoking bans go? The short answer, according to legal experts: pretty far.
While smokers have the liberty to indulge their habit, they don’t have the right to affect the health of others, said constitutional law professor Gary Shaw of Touro Law Center in Central Islip. In a court challenge, Shaw said, a judge would defer to state law, which favors public health and safety.
Still, Michael McFadden, mid-Atlantic coordinator for Citizens Freedom Alliance, says the bans go too far. “I believe these bans are a definite example of government overreach,” said McFadden, whose group advocates for smokers’ rights and is not funded by the tobacco industry.
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Clean-air laws play key role
If smokers are feeling burned by regulations, it’s likely because of stepped-up pressure from clean-air laws, which are aimed at protecting the public from the byproducts of tobacco smoke.
New York’s Clean Indoor Air Act, passed in 2003, ranks among the nation’s strictest. The act also underscores that local jurisdictions can continue “to adopt and enforce local laws regulating smoking.”
Smokers’ advocates say they aren’t convinced lighting up outdoors harms others. McFadden, for one, contends there are “absolutely no studies pointing to any real harm.”
Proponents of the laws disagree with smoker advocates. They say science has proved unequivocally that secondhand smoke can be lethal.
New York’s Health Department estimates that secondhand smoke contains more than 4,000 combustion products, 43 of which are known carcinogens in humans or animals, and many of which are potent lung irritants.
Tobacco fumes can waft 15 to 20 feet beyond the smoker in all directions, according to research by theEnvironmental Protection Agency.
The EPA estimates secondhand smoke causes up to 62,000 U.S. deaths a year among nonsmokers, including 3,000 deaths due to lung cancer. Exposure also causes respiratory infections in 300,000 children a year, it found.
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Public health a priority
Over the past decade, lawmakers began banning smoking in public places altogether.
“There is no constitutional right to smoke. It’s as simple as that,” said state Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky (D-White-stone), the author of a bill that would ban smoking in cars when children younger than 15 are present.
Stavisky’s bill, which stalled in committee last year, was reintroduced in February. She sees her measure as no different from requirements for infant car seats and seat belts, both of which were widely derided when first proposed. If the measure becomes law, violations would carry a $100 fine.
Nassau Legis. Judy G. Jacobs (D-Woodbury) and Judi R. Bosworth (D-Great Neck) authored the local measure, but with the harsher fine. At the time, Jacobs received scores of hostile emails and “my life was threatened,” she said. The bill is on hold.
Dr. Shetal Shah, assistant professor of neonatology at Stony Brook University Medical Center, supports the measure. “Anything we can do to eliminate exposure to secondhand smoke is a worthwhile public health goal,” he said.
McFadden, the smokers’ advocate, worries bans on smoking in private homes are next.
“I’m sure there’d always be a fair number of children out there willing to drop the dime on Mom or Dad after they’ve been properly trained at school,” he said.

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